Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book Review - The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief

Larry Alex Taunton wrote a true story of his experiences endured while adopting Sasha, a young girl from the Ukraine. It is a story of the battle between Christians and atheists. It is a story of the power of grace and unbelief. It is a story of the power of God in the face of what seems humanly impossible - a human system designed to eliminate God (any god), the common decency of humanity, and hope of any sort through the utter corruption of the system, the mind, and the pursuit of no god.

Mr. Taunton's explanations of that system and his experiences within it are exhausting. I should know because I endured it as well before the wall came down. His descriptions are accurate. I was a young Christian then and swore at the end I would never go back. Mr. Taunton never says that, but he leaves the reader feeling that way. Such a feeling is counter to the point of the book however. What if Sasha never got out? Would she still have hope? Could God still save her?

I heard of two men who met on the street in former Czechoslovakia. One was an American, the other a Czech. Through conversation they learned they were both Christians. The Czech was shocked and disbelieving. He said to the American, "How can you be a Christian? You have everything."

In the former Eastern countries behind the Iron Curtain they indeed had very little. According to Mr. Taunton, not much has changed. But can the grace of God still penetrate the Iron Curtain now turned paper? Absolutely. This same American man is a good friend of mine. He knows countless Christians from behind the former wall. He knows their stories. All are filled with grace despite the hopelessness of the situations.

I highly recommend reading this book. The story is real. But not like our God is real. Do you want to adopt from the Ukraine? Read this book so you know what you will face. The grace of God is the unknown part that you will also face. It will take you through for His glory. Don't hesitate.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Taking Half a Break

I'm taking a break from this blog for a while so I can concentrate on finishing my historical novel. You may observe its progress on my other blog at Falkenstein.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"with" is with it

Not only is Skye Jethani's "with" and excellent technical analysis of contemporary Christian life, it is also one of the few books daring to pinpoint the single issue which creates a problem in every Christian life. Sin. He effectively deals with the problem in each chapter. Where he leaves us wanting is the conclusion. What does the real Christian life look like without sin? He throws in a few ideas. But I sense like many of us, he is still searching. I hope the answer will show up in a sequel. The adjective approach to the various lives of Christians is an excellent one and should be taught to new and old believers alike.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Fact, It's All Dung

It's hard to draw near to God, talk to Him, and hear Him, when there is so much stuff in the way. God wants us to know Him, know His will, and do it. This starts with salvation, continues with a life of humility and repentance, and thrives in worship.

God gives us a simple example to follow in Philippians 3:8-11. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."

I suppose there are things that, like Paul, I could boast about. What things do you have? Shall we get into a contest to see who has the best credentials? I used to do that in the online forums. We'd get into Scriptural debates that started out cordial with a point of view. Then we would defend our positions with Scripture. If one side didn't give, then things got nasty. Someone would then belittle the other by listing their credentials and demanding those of the other. I never went that far. The best I can throw into the ring is a two-year Bible degree.

But I have something more. I know Jesus. He knows me. We spend a lot of time together. I learn at His feet through the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Everything else is dung.

At the end of the argument, do you know Jesus? Do you know His will? If suspect you'll find out as I did that these online debates are not part of His will. In fact, God tells us to stay away from them entirely. Imagine two sides arguing a spiritual point and using God's Word as the weapon of choice. Is that right division?

I am learning to abandon all and keep it that way. Life is much simpler. The rest is dung. I don't know about you but I find dung offensive. But Jesus is sweet.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's Not Enough

Yesterday I listened to a sermon by Mark S. Case, "God's People are not Prepared". For those of you who regularly read this blog and wonder where I have been, these messages are for you. Case's sermon is along the same lines as my blog message - wake up, be ready. As he says, it is not enough just to be saved and then go on living the so-called Christian life as we know it.

Pastors spend their entire careers teaching and preaching (correctly) the Word of God. But they may spend only a fraction of that time talking about what really matters most. We are in the last days. There are very specific things that we should be doing now. These are the things that we should know. These are the things that should be taught. In light of the fact of this present dispensation, spending much time teaching about other things seems like time not well spent.

The time is short. Life is short. Jesus may come at any moment. If He tarries, that does not mean we should fill in the time with other material. No. There are far too many souls at stake. And first I wish to address the souls who already believe themselves to be saved Christians.

No longer will I address this matter in terms of what you should be doing. That word "should" is too weak. It is evasive. It makes what I say sound like a suggestion. It makes what God says for these last days to sound like an option. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I say next is God's command. You may call me a fool but....

You know with what strong words I persuaded you in former times on this blog. I was zealous for God and His Church. And then, for a period of about a year, I have fallen away. It was all according to God's plan for me, then He might show me, and I in turn you, His commands for these last days.

They are in fact no different than what I have told you all along. But first I went through this period of sin to learn something important. The truth.

God says that Jesus came to save us from our sins, to deliver us from sin. Did He do that for you? Think a moment on the absoluteness of death. God says that the blood of His Son washed away all sin for all men for all time. His death was sufficient and never to be repeated. God says that we, His saved from sin children, identify with that death in that we are crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live by the faith of the Son of God in us.

The death in us is death to sin. The life in us is the righteousness and holiness of God whereby He calls us adopted sons and daughters in Jesus. While this death and life were guaranteed by a one-time Calvary, it is not enough that we sit idle and believe that we remain in this proper life and death state with God. There is a responsibility we must carry out moment by moment in reality.

God says we are to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin. We are to awake unto righteousness and sin not. Listen carefully now. This means that we are to live a life free from sin in Jesus because he saved us from our sins and delivered us from our sin. He gave us the power through Him to live. It didn't just happen at the moment of our salvation; it must be worked out constantly in life.

In other words, stop sinning. Why? Because you can. God commanded it, gave you the power to do it, and ultimately, He receives the glory from it. There is no glory in a Christian who sins.

Read through the latter epistles of Paul and you see this theme over and over to Timothy, the Thessalonians, the Hebrews. In the last days even Christians will fall away, teach false doctrine, and lead many astray. That's right. The evil in these last days will be more profound on the lips and actions of saved people than it is from the world. Christians can and will be wicked, evil, deceptive, deceived, and wretched.

I know. I went through it for a year just so God could convince me. But it is all there in black and white for you to read in His Word.

The only salvation is Jesus. It was good enough the moment He saved you. It is good enough for each moment of your life. But are you alive? Are you free? Are you holy and righteous? Are you?

This is not about whether you sin or not. Of course you do. But you can stop. And when you go through with it, the remedy is the same. The blood of Jesus. Confess, forsake, repent. Judgment will begin in the Church. I know the horrors of that judgment for a year of my time. That will be wood, hay, stubble, dead works.

Hear the words of life. God saved you from your sins now to be free now to glorify Him now. The instant you sin again after salvation all but your salvation is lost. God is merciful and gracious in His goodness to keep calling you to repent. But that is entirely up to you.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sun Shines Brightly on The Muir House

I just finished reading Mary DeMuth's latest novel, The Muir House. She uses the symbol of the sun, almost always golden and dancing, as a metaphor of hope, even in the darkest moments. For me, the sun shone brightly thoughout the entire read. It was a five-star brightness sun.

This is the first time I have ever read a book in this genre. Kinda strange since I secretly love chick flicks (even if my wife isn't watching with me). But The Muir House is not just a chick book. It is for anybody who is searching for life, for hope, for dreams. They are always closer than we think.

I "met" Mary through Facebook and frequent her blog and newsletter. The themes there are strong in The Muir House. That's what makes this novel so good. It's personal. That was the power that came through in the words. The power of the sun came through Mary's words because they are real to her. And that's what made it real to me. Over and over I read in her blog comments about how real her words are, how the readers can identify with them through personal experience. I think you'll find yourself and some reality in The Muir House.

Now, I will pass it on first to my wife, and from there, who knows. Hopes and dreams and prayers will find the next reader who needs a little sunshine in their lives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Money Saving Secrets

Book Review

Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving, Craker, Lorilee, Thomas Nelson, 2011

I live in the most densely-populated portion of the United States. One hour east of Philadelphia, two hours south of New York City, and three hours north of our Capital. Less than two hours west is Lancaster County, PA, homestead of one of our nation’s largest Amish communities. If ever one was trapped in between irrational exhuberance and old-world abundance, that would be me. You can read the same thrifty tips in the stuffy Wall Street Journal as Craker wrote in her humorous book. But Craker’s take is personal. And that’s what makes the difference. You can live nearby, read all about it, and truly believe these are great ideas – for someone else. Or, like Craker, you can take the time to become a true doer by taking a short drive across the river and spending some time with the Amish, getting to know them personally, blending into their community, and thereby coming away with a trans-cultural union that will yield the simplicity, sharing, and saving that Craker knows and writes about. It’s not just about the money and Craker gets the point across in fun, personal, and enticing ways. Enticing enough to make this densely populated reader encourage his family and other readers to give up and give in to a lifestyle not driven by driving, bugged by plodding buggies, or longing for good schmeck instead of show.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Max is the Minimum

Unlike my last review of Alton Gansky's "Conversations With God", Max Lucado's "Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions" promised max only delivered the minimum. A cardinal rule was broken by using multiple translations to find the one which fit the best to make a point. Some Scriptures were unrecognizable even though the book, chapter, and verse were provided.

The book also tends heavily towards the God is love side though at times judgment in balance is mentioned. While this book might make you feel good, it may not necessarily make you better.

This is the very first book I have ever read by Max Lucado. I have known about him for years as a storyteller. Perhaps his fiction is better than his reality. I'll give it a try. In the meantime, I only give this book two stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shogun'a Confuse You

I remember watching Shogun years ago, just after God saved me. I wondered why there was so much tension between the Jesuits and the Protestants who came to Japan. Then last week I read many of the posts from Christians regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden. Again that tension was there. It caused me to wonder why.

There was a period of time when I spent hours on the Christian forums, arguing back and forth about various doctrinal issues. Then one day I just stopped, tired of it all. It just felt like carnal weapons and fleshy warfare. If indeed the folks on the other side were Christians, then why were we fighting one another?

I saw godly people on both sides line up with valid Scriptures to defend their positions. How could we both be right? How could we both be wrong?

If you grew up in the sixties and seventies like I did, you remember well the frequent wars in Northern Ireland. Christians willing to go to their deaths in order to hold onto their faiths.

Or, as some have said, are we really Christians at all if we fight this way among ourselves?

Harper Lee wrote in "To Kill a Mockingbird" that the Bible in the hands of some men is more dangerous than a bottle of whiskey. I always think of that quote when I see these fights. We use the Bible as a weapon to beat one another into submission, to believe our beliefs, or else. Men will kill and be killed, certain they are righteous and right.

I no longer know what to think.

I followed the Internet Monk for a few years then recently gave up. They could not answer the question of what to do with the law even though they vehemently fight it in favor of grace. I dropped them not because of their position on grace, but because they fight to keep it, unwilling or unable to comment on the law.

I prefer to listen to "hellfire and brimstone" preachers like those found on sermonindex. I listened to a message by Ray Comfort this week called "Hell's Best Kept Secret". It made all the warfare between us Christians pale in comparison to its simple message. It was the gospel. And really, there is nothing else that matters.

At least that's what I think right now. What are your thoughts about this tough spot I'm in? Do you also wonder about what you really believe?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Man's Petty Kingdom

I had to blog this excerpt from Art Katz's sermon as heard on

“I have such a sense of sadness to see this fantastic facility, this school, these buildings, the men and families that live all about it as a cluster. To see and recognize that it is an institution and not an organism. It has all the precious potential for the expression of the kingdom if you would make but one radical apostolic shift from things institutional and the systems of man to the things that are apostolic and are the expression of his life in the community of God which is His kingdom, the Zion of God, the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem which cometh down from above where the spirits of just men are made perfect.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Book Review of Conversations With God by Alton Gansky

I have not read a book on apologetics since Josh McDowell's "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" back in college. I'm glad I picked up Gansky's "Conversations With God" because it is a perfect read for me as father with three young boys. The book indeed reads as easy as a conversation. These are the conversations that dad's should have with their kids. The approach is very conservative, non-confrontational, and fatherly true to the title. I felt so comfortable all the way through reading this book, as if Father was talking to me.

This is good material for future reference. A good hand-me-down for your children when they become parents. A great gift for an unsaved friend. A conversation starter. Make good use of this book. Pass it on.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How Many Times Must a Man Walk Down This Roman Road?

Writing “Christian Mythology” was a very long process. The last five years of that effort caused something to happen to me which I can only see in hindsight now. I am just beginning to emerge from the clutches of something I did not expect.

As a writer, I never understood until now what other writers meant when they said that many times they “became” some of the characters in their books. I think of poor Heath Ledger the actor. He became the Joker and it literally killed him. The villain was so dark and lived just to see other people burn. In “Christian Mythology” I became the darkest of all that this book railed against. While I did not take on its teachings, I took on a persona just as negative, wrong, and ungodly. The strange thing is, I remember praying about this so much, asking God to show me the truth, to live the truth, and write it. I never dreamed He would do it by exposing the absolute worst in me just as I had brought to light the worst in the kingdom. This was not God’s payback. It was His mercy.

Since I finished the manuscript I have been miserable. Despair has been my constant companion. The state of God’s Bride is horrible, blemished, and stained with sin. God showed me that I am no different. I cried out to Him asking why? Why save me, why go through all this, if I am to remain a miserable wretch?

I wanted to jump right in to completing the sequel to “Christian Mythology”. While this manuscript talked all about what is wrong with the Church, its sequel “The Remnant” talks all about what is right with the Church and what we, the Bride, should be doing as a Body in these last days. I asked God to have me live this reality just as powerfully as He did with the first book. Oh if I only realized what I had asked for, perhaps I would not have been so foolish. The misery and despair only got worse.

I am convinced now more than ever of the simplicity of the gospel. The blood of Jesus afforded me two things: freedom from sin and death, and; reconciliation with God my Father. I will sum this up in just a few verses. The reconciliation part means that God redeemed me back to the relationship He wanted with His creation in the beginning. That is what Jesus prayed for in John 17. Since sin separated us in the first place, it is sin that I must now die to and stay dead to. That is my responsibility as God says throughout Romans. The indwelling Holy Spirit of salvation gave me that power. Specifically, Romans 6:11 claims this simplicity. Romans 7 declares the difficulty. Romans 8 proclaims the victory.

Go and sin no more. That is a glorious life.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Review of The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

A book review of "The Final Summit" by Andy Andrews for Book Sneeze and Thomas Nelson book reviewers.

This book hit the pinnacle for me. This is the second Andy Andrews book I have read and again I give it five stars. Andrews is a wonderful storyteller. Even though you're not halfway through the climb of this encouraging book, you know you want to put one hand in front of the other and turn the pages. There's no guessing the answer to this one no matter the effort. Enjoy the climb and let the surprise at the top encourage you to go beyond.

As "The Noticer" encouraged me to look at things with a different perspective, Andrews' team lead David Ponder found an answer that helped save me from a precipice. This is indeed "A Quest to Find the One Principle That Will Save Humanity" which will leave you breathless at the top. Take a quick look down from there and make your personal and corporate decision. Enjoy the journey whether it be the next peak or the valley of the shadow of death.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Friends and Family

When I came home from college I shared the good news with my family. At first they did not understand. My parents attended church since childhood. They had me baptized as an infant, confirmed at age thirteen, and we all attended weekly during my growing up years. What did they miss?

I showed them the truth from God’s Word. Soon He saved them too.

Then my sister came home. She was the wayward one, the runaway, a true child of the sixties generation. I shared the gospel with her and God saved her too.

We found a Baptist church nearby and started attending. I earned a Bible degree from Liberty University through their Home Bible Institute. I graduated in 1990 and attended graduation with my fiancée. We came home and married in June. We settled nearby so that all our families were together, no more than about ten miles apart. It was a great thing to have such a godly mutual support system all the time.

As a writer, one of my favorite venues was note-taking in church. I wrote about the sermon. I wrote about the Sunday School lesson. If my mind wandered from them, I wrote what God was speaking to me about. I wrote my own lessons too. I filled dozens of blank books with my notes and muses. Eventually that process slowed down to a trickle. It seemed like the only notes I took were those coming from God. I no longer taught classes. The sermons lost their meat and barely retained their milk. For many years I starved in the church while never losing my hunger for God. So I satisfied it in a different way.

I stopped looking for Him in church and found Him in close fellowship with a few other believers. We started getting radical with the Christian life. We broke a lot of traditional boundaries common to the institutional church. We were closer to God than ever before and close to one another. As we grew, I wrote about our experiences. We relived them as I presented chapter after chapter to my friends. While they didn’t really provide much editorial or critique value, they did continue to grow in their faith as well as a result of remunerating on God’s Word and how He worked in our lives through our shared and unique experiences.

Those writings eventually became the manuscript for Christian Mythology.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


While still attending the church I grew up in and hanging out with my friends in youth group, I met a different kind of Christian in high school. Chip carried a Bible everywhere he went. He was very quiet unless someone asked him a question. One day I asked him why he carried a Bible. He explained that he was a Christian. I told him I was too. But something about his answer was different than my answer. Something that made me feel uncomfortable. Something that told me we weren’t really the same kind of Christian.

A few years later, off I went to college in the deep South. I met the guys on the hall. Charles was a Christian. He was always happy, smiling, saying “Good morning!” to everyone. Sometimes when I was having a bad day I would avoid Charles because a hearty “GM” was not what I was in the mood for.

Reggie and Jeff were also Christians. God saved Reggie as a young teen and called him to be a pastor. Jeff was more of a cowboy type. He chewed tobacco. Reggie and Jeff were God’s two witnesses to me. They answered every question I had. Their position never waivered. Salvation was all about Jesus saving me from my sin. I was a sinner. He is Lord. Salvation was a 100% commitment – all Jesus and no more me. I have tried in vain these last thirty years to find Reggie and Jeff. I almost think they were angels sent by God for they have simply disappeared. They’re probably off witnessing someplace else. Most of the other guys on the hall paid them no attention.

There were other Christians on the hall. Some of them were like me so they were the ones I hung out with. We did what everybody else did (like the world). There was one other brand of Christian in abundance. They were the stereotypical Bible-belt Christians. Christian in culture was their brand. They did everything that I and the world did. But they went to church on Sunday, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and Friday night para-church meetings like Campus Crusade for Christ or Baptist Student Union.

After God saved me I started going to all sorts of new meetings where every flavor of Christian showed up. Things became very confusing to me. I rarely saw Reggie and Jeff. I wanted to follow them because they seemed like the real deal. But instead I just found myself with a lot of Christians just like me, newborn and not very far removed from the world. I knew very little about Jesus and a whole lot about the world. It didn’t take long to get back in.

God gave me a holy whack on the side of the head at the end of four years of undergraduate college. I found out what repentance was. He led me to a church up the road from school. There were lots of Reggies and Jeffs there. It was a wonderful, growing, holy time of three years there while I attended graduate school. I found a new para-church group called Real Life and there I found a new group of friends. We did everything together and stayed close for years afterward. I often quote Randy whose hallmark farewell was, “Well, if I don’t see you later, then I’ll see you in a hundred years.” I loved that kind of confidence.

I don’t know if it was God’s plan to allow me to grow up this way. Maybe it was my flesh taking me where I willed, but God’s grace was greater, always taking me back to Himself eventually. I came back with a lot of scars, lessons learned, but full of His Spirit in the end. I wish I did not have the scars and tough lessons. I wish it could have been an easier road. There was nothing godly in my deviations. But God used it for good in the end. He got the glory. I think the glory is not because He got me back, not because He made me a new creation, and not because He had to do it a few times. I think the glory is because He Is. I AM that I AM. Like Reggie and Jeff told me long ago, it’s 100% about Jesus and nothing for me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How Did it all Start?

Over the next few posts I want to share with you my story of becoming a Christian. This is not my testimony. That is a two-minute "elevator speech" focused on Jesus, not me. These posts are the earthly story of getting to Jesus.

Like so many Christians, I grew up going to church. I called it the "corporation". They ran it like a business. Whether I ever heard the Gospel there or not I cannot recall. But I went there faithfully every week, got confirmed there, and had many life events recorded there.

One highlight was my Jr. and Sr. High youth groups. I loved them. We were a great bunch of friends both at church and school. We had a great time going on retreats. For some reason I was always the "deep" one when it came to Bible study time and discussion. Although I was Bible illiterate, I had a lot to say about it anyway. As I look back now I could think, "How odd." But instead, I know it was God drawing me.

It seems like in every walk of life, I was always the one selected to do the spiritual thing. I led the chapel services at Boy Scout camp. I always volunteered for anything to do around the church. God's drawing? I suppose so. But these spiritual things came out of books. Boilerplate religious sounding stuff. I had no care nor concern for God or any other person or thing but me.

That was church. Not the kind of church I would ever go back to. I cannot recall the friends and associates there as those representative of Jesus Christ. We were just a group of good kids doing the all-American thing. Going to church, the church of our generations, was the thing to do. We never gave it a second thought.

It can be very hard to question tradition. Tradition feels right. It is bound by a lot of things, none of which may be God, but which God can use to draw us to Himself. Are we free to think that way and dare to challenge the course of natural life for that which is Highest?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Goodbye Elijah

From “My Utmost for His Highest”:

August 11th.


"And he saw him no more." 2 Kings 2:12

"It is not wrong to depend upon Elijah as long as God gives him to you, but remember the time will come when he will have to go; when he stands no more to you as your guide and leader, because God does not intend he should. You say - "I cannot go on without Elijah." God says you must.

Alone at your Jordan. v.14. Jordan is the type of separation where there is no fellowship with anyone else, and where no one can take the responsibility for you. You have to put to the test now what you learned when you were with your Elijah. You have been to Jordan over and over again with Elijah, but now you are up against it alone. It is no use saying you cannot go; this experience has come, and you must go. If you want to know whether God is the God you have faith to believe Him to be, then go through your Jordan alone.

Alone at your Jericho. v.15. Jericho is the place where you have seen your Elijah do great things. When you come to your Jericho you have a strong disinclination to take the initiative and trust in God, you want someone else to take it for you. If you remain true to what you learned with Elijah, you will get the sign that God is with you.

Alone at your Bethel. v.23. At your Bethel you will find yourself at your wits' end and at the beginning of God's wisdom. When you get to your wits' end and feel inclined to succumb to panic, don't; stand true to God and He will bring His truth out in a way that will make your life a sacrament. Put into practice what you learned with your Elijah, use his cloak and pray. Determine to trust in God and do not look for Elijah any more."

What good is repentance? Of what benefit is it to me? Why change my mind and why change who I am?

These are logical questions to ask regarding righteousness. They are the wrong questions.

God commands repentance at salvation. He commands it throughout life. But why? Should I be sorry for being a sinner? At salvation I indeed was a sinner. Utterly depraved. My heart was desperately wicked and deceitful. I could not know it. I could not help my sin nature and could not help but live in sin each day of my life before Jesus. As an unregenerate sinner, I had no idea how wicked I was.

The Jesus saved me and I turned from my wicked ways and God healed me. God’s Holy Spirit filled me for the very first time. I was sealed in His love and salvation forever. Jesus saved me from my sins and delivered me from my sin. Then He commanded me to go and sin no more.

He told me to reckon myself dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus. He told me to awake unto righteousness and sin not.

Yet here I am. In sin again. Feeling like the days before salvation. Feeling no better, no different than the sinner I was for eighteen years.

The years between were sometimes blessed with the presence of an Elijah in my life. These were men who led me, taught me, buffered me, listened to me, and most of the time, put up with me. Then they were gone. Each time I reached the banks of the Jordan, they were gone. I had to cross alone. I am disappointed in myself for how many times I have had to cross over, only to be thrown back and try again. Instead of God’s dry path across, the waters rose up and thrust me back upon the bank. Like an Egyptian in the Red Sea pursuing Moses, I was crushed by the furies of the water. Yet I noticed that this water was somehow different.

It was the water of the Word of God. Instead of killing me, it cut me like a sharp, two-edged sword. Instead of drowning me in its filthy mud, it washed me clean by its purity.

I lie on the shore panting, now raging. Beaten. Tired. Wondering. Why do you keep doing this to me God? Why can’t I cross and move on? Why doesn’t Elijah come back and help me?

God’s heavy hand pushes me deeper into the warm sand of the shore. It turns once more into a desert. “Come with Me and learn some more.” Like Paul, I spend a few more years in the desert, learning at the feet of Jesus. Elijah is not there, but Jesus is.

Why should I repent Lord? Why should I change my mind if I won’t get any better? What do I repent of if it will just happen again and again and again?

“You don’t get any better. Repentance is not turning from sin. It is turning from self. It is not a change of mind about sin, to see it as I do. You cannot. Your heart is too wicked, too deceitful, unable to fathom the very depths of sin. I do not want you to be overcome by that.”

Indeed I am not crushed by anything other than my own pride. The root. That is something God can show me and that I can understand.

From “My Utmost for His Highest”:

March 8th.


"I am crucified with Christ." Galatians 2:20

"No one is ever united with Jesus Christ until he is willing to relinquish not sin only, but his whole way of looking at things. To be born from above of the Spirit of God means that we must let go before we lay hold, and in the first stages it is the relinquishing of all pretence. What Our Lord wants us to present to Him is not goodness, nor honesty, nor endeavour, but real solid sin; that is all He can take from us. And what does He give in exchange for our sin? Real solid righteousness. But we must relinquish all pretence of being any thing, all claim of being worthy of God's consideration.

Then the Spirit of God will show us what further there is to relinquish. There will have to be the relinquishing of my claim to my right to myself in every phase. Am I willing to relinquish my hold on all I possess, my hold on my affections, and on everything, and to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ?
There is always a sharp painful disillusionment to go through before we do relinquish. When a man really sees himself as the Lord sees him, it is not the abominable sins of the flesh that shock him, but the awful nature of the pride of his own heart against Jesus Christ. When he sees himself in the light of the Lord, the shame and the horror and the desperate conviction come home.

If you are up against the question of relinquishing, go through the crisis, relinquish all, and God will make you fit for all that He requires of you."

“Your heart, the world, and the wicked one, these will tell you that you will get better. That life with Me makes you progressively more like me and less like yourself. It’s a lie. It’s a masterful deception. Your prideful heart craves it. It is the sin nature which so desperately wants it to be true. As it is, it makes you a god, constantly telling you that you have neither need nor want of Me. This is the thing to repent of. That thing which from the very beginning set mankind against his Creator.”

It’s all really that simple. Everything else will roar in disagreement. Try to do better. Feel bad about your sin. God will forgive you. He’ll make you feel better.

Oh yeah? Them why am I so miserable? God took away my Elijah. He threw me back time after time. He put me in the desert. You call that feeling better? Was Job the righteous about feeling better? Though He slay me, yet will I praise Him. Whether He slay me or I die at my own hand, the Lord is working a good, loving, and at this time, a heavy-handed work. A Father chastises the son whom He loves. It is good for me to be afflicted that I might learn to love and obey you. It is good that God works all things together for my good that I might learn to seek Him with my whole heart. There is no misery when we are One.

I sense that I am near the time when I can go on and not look back for Elijah anymore. He has transferred his cloak to me. He has taught me to pray. He has led me in wisdom. Though my heart may stray again, and surely it will, I will be on the other side of Jordan. Jericho will be in ruins behind me. I will abide in Bethel, the city of God, and dwell there forever. I will behold the beauty of the Lord there and inquire continuously in His temple.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Groundhog Day

The heaviness continued into the night. My sons were watching Groundhog Day, an old Bill Murray movie. He plays a jerk TV weather reporter. His assignment is to cover the "weather" at Punxatawney, PA on Groundhog Day. A cameraman and a lovely director (who Murray secretly loves) accompany him. Somehow, Murray the jerk gets to live the same day over and over again, screwing up each time as he attempts to get to know and finally get into a relationship with the director. She of course at first wants no part of him. But he learns from each day's mistakes and gets a little farther along with her until finally at the end they live happily ever after.

I don't know if God has that last part in mind, at least not in this earthly life. But I do think that sometimes the Christian life is a little bit like Groundhog Day. By His grace we get to live each day, learning from our previous mistakes, and hopefully making less screwups.

But after reading Jeff Dunn's posts the last two days on internetmonk I think, "Nahhh! Ain't gonna happen." What's next Jeff? I can't wait to see it in my life either. Will it be freedom or prison?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

God's Heavy Hand

As I reported a few days ago, one of my goals for writing "The Remnant" is to live the story first, then write about it. I now know that this is definitely a God-goal. This story is all about what the Church Body of Jesus Christ is to be doing in these last days. God wove a bunch of threads together with a heavy hand this week.

I bought the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. I bought it for my son. Like me as a youth, he is shy and introverted. I knew about this book since I was a kid but never read it. As a Christian I avoided it for what seemed like obvious reasons gleaned from the title alone. On Wednesday morning I read chapter one. The point - never criticize or complain. Many of the stories hit home with me as God brought to mind many incidents of such behavior on my part. But that was not heavy enough.

I kept thinking about them the next two days. I bit my tongue raw to keep my mouth shut. More reminders at work and home flooded into my mind. Though I didn't speak a word of complaint or criticism that last two days, mind mind was equally raw with trying, not as successfully, to think such thoughts.

At lunchtime I read the internetmonk. This post was another of God's heavy handed blows from out of nowhere. Now I understand why brother Jeff has been having as tough, if not a tougher time of it than me since we met last May at a writer's conference.

This afternoon I had to make a side-trip to the grocery store on the way home from work. As I entered the store I recognized a friend from church. Ernie (not his real name) is an older man I have known for many years. He works where I work - as a janitor. He is a sweet Christian man. He is kind of slow in speech and you never know what he will talk about when you meet him. His eyes sparkle with gentleness. His hands are massive and when you expect a crushing handshake, he instead is soft but firm.

I hurried past him with a smile and quick "hello" and quickly gathered the few things I needed. I had plans for this afternoon with my son and did not want to be late.

We've had a lot of snow where I live this year. Eight inches fell Monday night. Folks around here don't know how to drive in the snow anymore and that just drives me nuts. I can complain up a storm bigger than the blizzard when I get stuck behind a slowpoke who doesn't understand the physics of driving on ice.

I pulled out of my parking spot at the grocery and headed for the exit. Not so fast. With nowhere to get around him, I was stuck behind another putz. That's when God's heavy hand sunk me down deep in my seat.

What if it's some old person? What if they really are scared? So what if they shouldn't be out here. They are. That's reality. Maybe it was an emergency and they needed medicine? It could be anything. The point was, I had no idea. God was just putting me in the other person's shoes. Would you like to be the recipient, that driver in front of you, and hear what just came out of your mouth? I'm sure Ernie wouldn't. Sure enough, it was him. Poor, slow, can't help it Ernie. My friend.

God is reaching out to me asking for repentance. Not just sorry for the complaints and criticism, but true repentance. A change of mind.

Chapter two of the book is all about that - offering praise. Nothing less. Stop thinking about yourself and think about the other guy. Encourage him. Build him up. Help him feel important. Lots more examples about raising kids brought more memories of just how bad I have screwed up so far.

I have forty-nine years of screw-up to repent from. Please Jesus. I want to be that new man, no more an Ebenezer Scrooge but the man who woke up to a new morning and knew without a doubt he was different, filled with the spirit every day of the year. Please Jesus. Please.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

In Constant Search - A Review of In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson

A review of "In Constant Prayer" by Robert Benson for Book Sneeze and Thomas Nelson Book Reviewers:

When I first heard about the “Ancient Practices” series, the book on prayer interested me most. I loved the concept, the topic, and the series offerings. In Constant Prayer instead left me constantly searching for anything ancient or new about prayer. What I found instead was a recommendation to return to ancient church (not necessarily Biblical) practices. The author told me I could pray the same prayer as Jesus to His Father but he never told me what prayer that was. He told me all about this idea of the office but never gave an example until the appendix. He did provide plenty of excuses and anecdotes for not praying. This is old, nay, ancient material. It was certainly no encouragement to engage in prayer whether ancient or contemporary.

The support for his position seemed lacking as only two other works appeared in the bibliography. So overall, I learned nothing new from this book about the ancient practice of constant prayer. At one point I was excited by the prospect of finding out how, as an individual, I might learn to pray without ceasing. Instead, the author leads us to believe that this is accomplished corporately as individuals and churches around the world pray the “office” within their time zones of prayer.

I would have enjoyed learning about the ancient origins of the hours of prayer in Bible times. Instead, the author simply offered these as mere facts and then moved on with his personal stories, few of which directly had anything to do with prayer.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Road to The Remnant

Three months after I finished the first draft of Christian Mythology, I finished the first draft of its sequel, The Remnant. That was about six years ago. A few writer’s conferences, writing classes, and a whole lot of prayers later, I have learned a few lessons about those manuscripts.

The first draft is not the final book-ready manuscript.

The way God personally teaches me is not the way most people prefer to learn when they read non-fiction books.

The craft of storytelling does not come naturally to me. It is a learned craft. There are some great teachers out there willing to help.

I put all that together along with disposing of my fear and loathing of editing. Yesterday my pastor told me how much he enjoyed my first book, Biblical Quality. Knowing what I know now (I self-published it in 2000), I told him it was a terrible book that perhaps one day I would re-write. It just wasn’t God’s priority right now. I think the reason he liked the book was because we share two similarities: we’re both engineers and tend to think like logical engineers; and God teaches us in that same way. So he liked the dry, logical, straightforward, lacking in story method present in that book. Bottom line – that first book requires a lot of editing if it will ever sell. It’s still a warm concept on the CBA bookshelves so….

My favorite storytelling teacher is Donald Maass. He has a few books out on the subject. What makes them appealing to me is his prolific use of real, published examples. Sometimes he is fortunate to provide pre- and post-published examples so readers can see the difference a little editing can make. I get that. Good process stuff. And if I like the book(s) he cites, I can buy it and then really soak in some good fiction. Someone once said if you want to be a great fiction writer, you have to also read a lot of great fiction. Sounds good to me. I recently divulged to my Sunday School class that I read a Karen Kingsbury book. That evoked a load chuckle from one woman. “You? But that’s so unlike you!” Sure, most people don’t know that this ice-cold logical engineer also loves a good chick-flick or even some good chick-lit. Even an engineer needs to let off steam sometimes.

Right now The Remnant remains in first draft form in the ethereal world of my laptop. Instead, my historical fiction novel is on the front burner. I’m immersed in storytelling, learning the craft, and putting it on binary paper. In the meantime, God is reminding me of the stories that went into writing The Remnant. At the same time, I am living the story real time, committing it to memory, and waiting to write it down later.

Christian Mythology was all about the sins and false teachings that have shut down the Church and blotted the Bride of Christ. The Remnant follows up with the glorious people and work of Jesus’ Body in these last days. It is a picture of what the Church should be doing in stark contrast to the institutional programs we take for granted as normal going to church routine. It is about being the Church.

The problem is there are so few examples. There is no one like Donald Maass who has put it into a book showing the before and after effects. Very few have dared to put the denominational church under a microscope and dissect it in light of God’s Word. We just assume that everything lines up. Some, like me, are willing to challenge this. Some excellent books on the subject include Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer, Radical by David Platt, and Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. The latter gentlemen have a bunch of other books on the subject which I have not read yet like Pagan Christianity (with George Barna) and Reimagining Church.

But so far, we all struggle with putting together a book which says, here is what Church looks like from God’s Word. Of course we have God’s Word to guide us. We just want to have somebody living it for real so we can put it in print, copy it, and give it to other people who love God and desire to do His will. Uh oh - are we saying that all these other Christians in these mainstream churches don’t love God and don’t desire to do His will?

No. Not all of them. There are some who nod in agreement with us. They groan deeply in anticipation of Jesus’ return, broken by sin, saddened by the rampant deception in the churches teaching for Christian doctrine the myths of man. They want the real thing. They want God’s pure, unsullied, intended from the Beginning life and work of being God’s people – His remnant.

The ones who get angry at posts like this are most likely the same kinds of people who Jesus disputed in no uncertain terms – “Pharisees! Scribes! Hypocrites!” You’ll read books like the ones mentioned above and beat your chest and say in agreement, “That’s right. I’m glad I’m not like that. Off with their heads!” But in reality you are like the Pharisee praying in the temple, “Lord I thank you that you did not make me like other men.” Meanwhile, the remnant prays in a corner, beating his breast, “Lord, have mercy on me!”

While a book sale is a book sale, The Remnant is not for the Pharisees. It will just be more fodder and ammunition for them to twist to their advantage. Yesterday my pastor preached about Acts 13. He said that the reason Paul’s sermon was successful, one preached seven times in the book by one person or another, was simply because it was preached. He told people the truth, the right truth.

While I understood what he meant, I also found the loophole. The right truth is relative in the eyes of many Christians, church organizations, and denominations today. Pick any subject in the Bible and sides will be drawn. They will be equally armed with Scripture to defend their positions. The unlearned will sit on the sidelines and either wonder how this can be that God’s Word can be wielded as a weapon between groups who both call themselves believers, or else they will militantly join one side or the other and continue to promote the attacks and defenses.

Sadly, the books we write sometimes get used as vehicles to continue this fray. But nothing is worse than this, as Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird, “"You are too young to understand it ... but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of--oh, of your father."

Perhaps you see the quandary I am in. I want to write the story for The Remnant. I just have to live it first. I mined all the truth from God’s Word. He taught me a bunch. Now it has to become real. God wants it real, not just words. He wants His Church a glorious Bride ready for His Son. I have no idea what to expect on this journey. I suspect it will not be as easy as writing the first draft.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Plan

Here's the plan for my next book. It is an historical novel. Starting yesterday, I will write for 100 calendar weekdays at least 1000 words per day. By May 28, I will have a complete, 100,000 word first draft.

Two weeks prior to that I plan to attend a writer's conference. I will shop the draft idea around to editors and agents. I will take more fiction classes. What I learn, I will take back and edit the novel.

In August, I plan to attend another writer's conference. I will pitch the novel to editors and agents at that time. I'll take a few more classes too.

As all that is going on, I will continue to wait on hearing from editors and agents who have my Christian Mythology proposal. I hope one of them accepts and requests the full manuscript to sell.

Most of all, I will continue to live out the story of Christian Mythology's sequel, The Remnant. As I live it out and learn, I will write the story on top of the technical draft which already exists.

I expect this plan will keep me plenty busy this year. I just brought home a new laptop on which to write all this great work. Pray me Godspeed.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What's Next?

If you stuck with me through the thirty chapters of Christian Mythology, then thank God. I know it was tough. Sin is not an easy subject. It's personal. Whether it left you cold and indifferent or sensitive and awake, one with God perhaps for the first time since salvation, then thank God. It affected you. I know. I lived every one of those thirty chapters and more. For years. But there's more.

Thirty myths of sin certainly don't cover the full spectrum. The flesh and the devil are far too clever to limit the number. But the good news is that I will leave it alone. The point has been made. It's time to move on.

Shortly after I completed the first draft of Christian Mythology I started into its sequel, The Remnant. Now that draft has sat on the shelves for a few years waiting. It is waiting for me to live it. Once lived, then I shall edit that life into the story. The living is the thing and I'm right in the middle of it. I'd like to share a bit with you.

Life is a struggle. For Christians, it is a struggle between good and evil, sin and righteousness, death and life. I find that struggle played out dramatically between two groups of people on the internet monk: the works righteousness group and the grace group.

I think the monks in the grace group think I'm a works righteousness guy. They fight vehemently against works righteousness. Their favorite target is John Macarthur. I love his preaching so I guess I really am in that camp. I listened to one of his messages about the conscience last week at 11am on WFIL. By the end of the half-hour, I could see why the grace camp doesn't like Macarthur's message. Ironic that his show is called Grace to You. It was all about sin and repentance.

The next day I read a post from Jeff Dunn, a regular monk contributor. He was fed up with the works righteousness crew and wanted to let us know it. Grace, grace, GRACE was his message strong and clear. So strong in fact that like Macarthur, he left something out. The begged question and its answer.

Macarthur preached so strongly on repentance (a work of righteousness) that he included nothing about grace to balance it out. Dunn preached so strongly on grace that someone asked in the comments, "What? Then anything goes?" Hardly. But Dunn failed to balance his message. Seems like these guys always say you'll have to come back for more.

And that is what is happening with all of us. If you read the Christian Mythology series, then you didn't get the rest of the story. Not yet anyway. It's in the next book, The Remnant. There is the balance. But I'm not there yet because although the words are there, the story is not. I have to live it first. I'm right in the middle. It is a grand adventure with Jesus. I hope you will come along.

Because whether you endured Christian Mythology or not, whether you're willing to wait for The Remnant or not, I encourage you to do one thing in the meantime, walk with Jesus. He will show you the truth better than I, Jeff Dunn, or John Macarthur ever could.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Review - The Noticer

Book review of The Noticer by Andy Andrews
via Thomas Nelson Book Reviewers

There’s a reason why this 156-page book ranked in the top 100 sellers for Christian books in 2010. It is worth reading more than once and buying for your friends. It’s a quick read but provocative too, with some worthwhile exploratory questions after the end of the story. As an introspective person, I couldn’t help ask myself those questions as I read along.

Andrews adopted a simple storytelling style making The Noticer appropriate for all age groups. I immediately recommended it to my son and wife.

The book came into my life about two years ago and sat in my inbox. After a major life issue and much soul-searching, this book came out of the inbox at just the right time. Every chapter had something to say to me. I even used some of its ideas on my children to give them a little perspective.

I highly recommend that you grab this book and read it now or keep it in the wings. God knows when you’ll need it. It’s easy to order your copy at Notice you just click here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I like the title of this book:

Imagine my surprise stumbling upon this book today: Awakening, by Stovall Weems. Although I have not read it in depth, that wonderful preview tool was enough to convince me that this book is worth reading. Check it out for yourself at

I am excited that a lot of books are coming out on the topic of what we call Awakening. If you haven't read them, I hope you will get a copy of these:

Radical, by David Platt
Mere Churchianity, by Michael Spencer
Jesus Manifesto, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

and now:

Awakening, by Stovall Weems

Why would I, a competing author, be excited about these books getting on the shelves before mine? Because I'm awake. And being awake means this life is not about me and what I can get out of it. This life is God's and I am here for His service. I used to worry a lot about getting published. Now I know that if the book I wrote, Christian Mythology, never goes beyond helping the half-dozen or so folks who lived through it with me, then that's enough if that's what God wants. But I know He wants more. He wants all of His saints awake.

What exactly does that mean? Here's a quote from Weems' first chapter:

"Since my awakening more than twenty years ago, I have been in a constant fight to keep that state of newness and freedom in my soul. And to this day nothing is as important to me as keeping my relationship to God fresh and new."

You take it from there. Pick up a copy of the book by clicking here.

Awake! Awake!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Great Writing Contest for You

I just discovered the Writing Spa and for my hard work, a chance to win some great writing stuff. The best news is you can win too. The prizes include the 2011 Christian Writer's Market Guide from Sally Stuart, a free non-fiction proposal tutorial, and a complimentary 5-page manuscript evaluation. All this comes courtesy of Mary DeMuth. Go meet her on Facebook to find out more on how easy it is to get seven entries for this contest. Thanks Mary for this great opportunity.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Authors and Journalists

I usually refrain from commentary on the media. However, the latest accusations against Sarah Palin are wrong. I see among my author friends agreement with this position. I wonder if the journalists are the polar opposite?

Ms. Palin caught the attention of a journalist when she used the phrase "blood libel" in connection with the recent Tucson shooting. Whether she (or her speech writer) knew the origin of this phrase is not the issue. The issue is why it became media-worthy in the first place.

I see perhaps three potential positions the journalist could have taken on this. They chose the approach that just feels like deliberate antagonism. They could have chosen rather to ignore the phrase altogether. Or they could have pointed out the origin and politely corrected Ms. Palin's misuse. But to say that her remarks were deliberate and malicious, just like her campaign crosshair picture, is absurd. Are we to believe that she knew this tragic shooting would take place two years ago when the picture came out? Are we to believe their is some conspiracy lurking beneath her smile and "golly gee" glib?

Some commenters do want to give her the benefit of the doubt. Some are looking for the next opportunity to gig her. Is this journalism? Authors can only get away with this stuff in fiction. Was the journalist just doing his/her investigative duty in digging up the etymology of this phrase? Perhaps. Was it and its results edifying? Hardly. Maybe someone gained by this but I cannot imagine who.

Jesus warned us that we will be judged for every idle word. He tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Therefore, we do have to be careful. Some folks would say, "Well, those weren't my exact words." This kind of double-speak means they only spoke what someone else wrote for them. I'm not saying this is what happened in Ms. Palin's case. My point is a question for us all:

What we say, what we mean to say, and what people perceive we say all matter. We can only control the first two. Shame on those in the third category who make it a living to associate and apply the worst to our words. That is not journalism of any sort. That's just bad manners.